Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I have often been thinking of the sin in this world. Yes, the ugly word we would like to live without. In Cambodia, we heard of horrific and sometimes graphic stories of young girls being deceived and raped by men. One day, during our visit at Chab Dai (a non-prof organization that works to unite all the NGOs in Cambodia who are working against the sex trade), we were reviewing their cartoon pictures that depict young girls and boys being ushered into the sex trade (used for educational purposes). They were just cartoon drawings and I wanted to vomit...the pictures were haunting and the reality is even more haunting and grotesque. I think it was that afternoon that I layed in bed and cried for a long time and listened to Rich Mullins. I felt like my heart couldn't take it anymore. Sin is appalling and I never want to be okay with it. I don't want to become complacent to the realities of this world that rape and ravage what is God's. Sin should always make me angry...angry enough to clean a temple and hunger for holiness.

I have also been thinking of my sin. Yes, the ugly reality that we live with. I am capable of appalling things. It is true. I am no better than the: adulterer, prostitute, sexual perpetrator, liar, deceiver, manipulator, thief, destroyer of beauty, desecrator of God's holiness. If I am truly honest, there resides in me the same seed that resides in Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot. If I choose to believe that I am better than these, then I have left the door wide open for all hell to break loose in my mind, heart, and soul.

I kneel not now to pray that Thou
Make white one single sin,--
I only kneel to thank the Lord
For what I have not been;

For deeds which sprouted in my heart
But ne'er to bloom were brought,
For monstrous vices which I slew
In the shambles of my thought--

Dark deeds the world has never guessed
By hell and passion bred,
Which never grew beyond the bud
That cankered in my head.

Some said I was a righteous man--
Poor fools! the gallows tree
(If Thou hadst let one foot to slip)
Had held a limb for me.

So for the man I might have been
My heart must cease to mourn,
'Twere best to praise the living God
For monsters never born:

To bend the spiritual knee
(knowing myself within)
And thank the kind, benignant God
For what I have not been.
Harry Kemp

So, what is the answer? Can the two reside next to each other: anger and disgust over the monster of sin and the acknowledgement that I am the monster? I neither want to be complacent nor pious; it is the pathway that many hell-bound men have taken and I am right on their heels if I am not clinging to the cross. I, too, am a monster, you know. My only hope is Jesus...who else can I take this monstrous skin off of my heart? Who else can rip the adam seed from my core? Who else can redeem what is God's?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Beauty from Ashes

Our visits to Rapha House have been full of surprises. Rapha House exists to provide a safe environment for girls who have been rescued from the sex trade. I had done some reading before we came here to Cambodia and my heart has been perpetually breaking since. I had been bracing myself for a blanket of sorrow to overwhelm me and I had been praying for the strength to look at these little girls and love them without falling apart. That is a big prayer for me because I cry at Hallmark commercials and Little House on the Prairie. At our first visit, the girls ran up to us and greeted us. The traditional greeting here is to place your hands together and bring them up to your nose and say something to the effect of "Choom Reep Suah". Behind these traditional greetings were some of the most beautiful smiles I had ever seen. I found myself smiling so much my cheeks hurt. The girls laughed, played, and of course doted over Sarai. We played games and met some of the staff. All of it contained unexplainable joy.

The next day we came back and met more of the staff. David did a devotion in the morning. We also received a tour of all of the was very impressive. Again, most of the girls smiled and were delighted to see us. Well, actually, they were delighted to see Sarai but we'll take the welcome as if it was directed towards all of us.

That evening I led a devotion on "lost things" with the girls. We had a lot of fun. I told the girls I had lost something and asked them if they would help me find it. I told them if they found it, they could keep it (it was a package of gum I had hid). They were excited and off they went. It didn't take long for them to run about the courtyard frantically looking for the gum and soon they found it. When they got back I talked to them about Luke 15 and the first two parables in the chapter--the lost sheep and the lost coin. I was surprised at how at ease and comfortable I was with these girls and even speaking with an interpreter. I totally delighted in their enthusiasm and warmth about them.

After that we played games and danced to music. There is one particular girl that I enjoyed watching. She is very young...the kind of young that breaks your heart a thousand times because she is there. Generally she is shy and withdrawn. She will stand and watch the other girls. More than anything I wanted to scoop her up and hold her--so much so that my heart and arms were aching. I did not, of course, because it is good for her to have her distance and feel safe. At the end of the evening I was standing at the door and the girls were leaving. She started walking out and looked up at me with a smile that was priceless. She walked past me and then quickly ran back and gave me a huge hug. I thought my heart would burst.

Isaiah 61:1-3

"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

What I thought would be broken, there is redemption at work. What I thought would be darkness, there was light piercing. What I thought would weeping, there was laughter. What I thought would be ashes, there was beauty. God is redeeming. There is hope and I am clinging to it with desperation and tears.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cambodia at first sight...

Where to begin? When we arrived in Phnom Penh it was warm and rainy...aaaahhh, a piece of home. It doesn't take long to notice things are a bit different here. The driving pattern (or lack there of) is my favorite difference, actually. I kind of feel like we are playing a video game and trying to avoid oncoming asteroids. In order to maneuver around their impending doom, you use whatever means possible. Instead of a spaceship, you have a moto (small motorcycle/moped thingy) or a tuk tuk (small motorcycles pulling a cart thingy). It takes creativity, skill, and lack of fear to accomplish this task. I have none of these when it comes to driving and I obviously have not tried to drive any type of vehicle, including a bicycle. I think you have an even less advantage on a bicycle. The other amazing thing about motos is that you carry an insane amout of things and/or people. Who needs a gas guzzling SUV when you can have a moto and pile on the...bananas, family, ladders, large boxes of water. I will probably be able to add to that list as the week continues.

The other major difference is that if you asked for a hot dog, you would get exactly that...a roasted dog. Just below Jenni and Holly's apartment (where we are staying), there is a stand that sells dog meat, including the head. I took a good, long stare at the roasted head and I am still unsure where the meat is. To see a picture of this, you can check out Jenni's blog at http://www.jennincambo.wordpress/. I am pretty sure we will snap a shot or two of this as well. I am glad Seth and Lydia are not with us because this might be traumatizing. They still talk about our dog that we had for about a year with love and longing. This sight might give them a different, haunting take on the use of a dog. I also contrasted the perspective of dogs here vs. the perspective of dogs in the States. In the great land of opportunity, a dog has the hope of being purchased, loved, bathed, receive gourmet meals, given baked doggy biscuits from a specialty store, pushed in stroller, or even carried in a purse. In Cambodia, there is no hope. Their greatest hope is to rummage around the trash--otherwise it's time to be roasted. PETA would have a hay day here.

Sarai is definitely our world traveler. She now requests a ride in the tuk tuk (she generally repeats words twice when saying its name so I think she naturally falls into some of the terms here). She is a "rock star" here, as well. That is the name Corey gave her and she was right. Everywhere we go, people smile at her, say hello, and are generally attentive to this white, curly-headed, blue-eyed doll. She doesn't seem to mind it and has even offered her autograph a couple of times.
There is so much to say and it is difficult to really put it all down. I feel like my eyes are wide open and I am taking in as much as I can. Processing all of this is difficult right now; partly because of the intake flow and partly because I have yet to sleep more than 4 hours. The next few days will prove to be even more challenging and welcomed.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The diaper change and the epiphany

Today I had the pleasure of taking care of the Foster children, Eleanor and John. If you have ever spent time with the both of them, you will quickly notice something...they are vastly different. Eleanor is an outgoing, outspoken, warm, loving, friendly little girl. She will become best friends with whomever will smile at her. And probably with people who don't. John, on the other hand is very unsure of what life has to offer. He prefers his mommy over anyone, he does not enjoy separation from her, he doesn't like sudden movements or sounds and he despises any kind of change...and that includes his diaper.

So, it happened that it was time for his diaper to be changed. He was wailing and kicking as if I had just sawed off one of his limbs. The little buddy was so ticked off at me and somehow I managed to wrestle a new, clean one on him. (I should coach for the WWF--I even managed to do this without wearing poop. By the way, I just learned there is a wrestling term called the "trapping headbutt". I am pretty sure I could tie that into here somewhere.) As I was doing this, I started talking to him and a thought came to my mind and it made me smile. I said to the squirmy little man, "John, you are just the kind of boy God wants to make into a warrior." Think about it. It's true isn't it? Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord calls out the most fearful, wimpy little fellas to do some crazy "manly" things. I loved picturing Baby John as a preacher in some foreign country loving on people and telling them about Jesus. I wonder what injustice he will fight against and what bold grace he will offer against society's norm. My favorite part about all of this is that Baby John is just the kind of hero we need. We need him because we can relate to him. If God uses the fearful to bring about His will in epoch proportions, maybe, just maybe he can use me, too. The good Lord knows how I hate my diaper to be changed!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hungry for Home

This week I had a conversation with a friend. It was difficult, sad, and full of truth at its purest. What was spoken was nothing to be argued with and yet it made me long for Home.

Last week Matt was gone for our staff retreat. I chose to stay home with the kids and it was difficult, fun, and full of laughter and some tears. I realized that I am deeply connected to Matt. The kind of connection that I am scared to admit. Part of me wants to believe that if I had to, I could make it on my own. But the truth is, I am a better person with him around. I laugh more, choose truth more, cry more for others, seek Christ more fervently, am sharpened and well...more like Jesus because he and I are deeply intertwined. It made me wonder what Home will be like, with all of us together in our purest form, tightly wound around eachother, depending on one another without self-protection, without reservation or fear.

I am longing for Home. I know this is good because I was never meant to nestle in here. The verse that has haunted me often is when Jesus is talking and says that birds have nests, foxes have dens, but the Son of man has no place to lay his sobers this world up a bit. It keeps me from being intoxicated by what it has to offer. There is a line in a Rich Mullins song that says, "Nobody tells you when you get born here, how much you'll come to love it and how you'll never belong here. So I'll call you my country, but I'll be longing for my home. I wish that I could take you there with me."

What I do long for on this side of heaven is deep, intertwining friendships that never question the realm of purity and never tap into self-protection. There is a loneliness that subsides only for a little while, usually with a hug or a warm smile. But usually...usually it haunts me because I know I have no place to lay my head and weep.